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Friday, May 6, 2016

The 'third kid' excuse

Thursday, July 7, 2011

For us, it's the "third kid" excuse, but for other families, it could be "fourth kid" or "fifth kid," whichever, but for us, the last kid is being raised a whole heck of a lot different than the first. Before our third daughter was born, I had a friend that was always referring to "third kid."

"It's a third kid thing," she'd always say. I gathered that to mean, whatever the parent failed to do with the third kid that they would have never done with the first, is followed by the "third kid" excuse.

I was one of those super fanatical parents with our first daughter. She had a strict nap and bedtime schedule and only ate safe, healthy foods. Milk, veggies, fruit and a limit of one cup of juice a day. Heaven forbid she ate anything that fell on the ground! I followed the baby and toddler books religiously and even had a multi-page, single-spaced typed up schedule for my parents anytime she stayed with them overnight.

I always had her dressed in nicely pressed outfits with matching hair pieces and cute shoes to match. I overly sanitized grocery cart handles and restaurant high chairs, and never let her go outside without tons of sunscreen and bug spray. I played games with her and made sure to read at least one book a day. We practiced our letters and numbers all the time and sang in the car instead of watching dvds.

When our second daughter arrived, I relaxed a little but pretty much tried to follow the same style of parenting. She was just a different personality than her older sister so was I forced to relax on a few things. I still overly sterilized everything, followed a strict eating and sleeping routine, but reduced the size of the typed up schedule and let her have two cups of juice instead of one.

Unfortunately, by the time the third daughter was here, something happened to my over-zealous ways. I was older, way more relaxed and a lot of things I use to worry so much about weren't that big of a deal anymore. Maybe it was partly just survival mode, with a baby and two little girls; you just do what you have to do to survive the day. As long as everyone got fed, bathed and had some sleep, it was considered a fairly productive day.

My first indication that my early parenting ways had passed was when I went to watch my older girls perform at a cheerleading camp, and walking into the gym, when I looked down and saw my youngest daughter walking beside me with her shoes on the wrong feet and my only thought was, "Well, at least she has shoes on." Obsessive me, would have NEVER let my older two be seen with their shoes on the wrong feet. "Third kid," is the excuse I said to myself.

I've since done several "third kid" things I would have never done with the older two. I've taken her to the grocery store in her pajamas, once or twice without any shoes. If she found leftover food from supper under the table and had it in her mouth, I let her finish it, instead of swatting it out of her mouth. I gave her gum knowing she'd probably swallow it, lost track of the amount of sugar drinks she had in a day, and let her eat corndogs for three meals in a row, as long as she ate something.

If her outfits match, great, and if not, oh well. Her hair is always brushed but never anything fancy and I'm happy if her shoes actually fit. This last winter, I shoved a pair of tennis shoes on her that were two sizes too small. Whoops! I was a little embarrassed when the shoe lady measured her feet. "Third kid," I said. Guess I better pay more attention to her shoe size.

If she falls and gets hurt, I don't come sprinting to swoop her up and cry with her. I give her a quick hug and tell her she's OK and send her on her way. Her sisters are in charge of playing games with her and Sesame Street helps me on her letters and numbers. There's no typed-up schedule for my parents, just a few basic instructions over the phone, and the How to Raise a Child books were given away years ago.

I was reminded again yesterday of the "third kid" thing when we all left to go to the movies as a family and it wasn't until we arrived that I looked at our youngest in the back seat and realized I never checked her over before we left the house. I'd forgotten to brush her hair, her clothes didn't match and her face was covered in sticky popsicle and dirt. As long as we didn't forget her at home, I guess the rest really doesn't matter.

"Third kid," I thought in my head.

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Jennifer Morgan
Motherhood Moments
-- Jennifer Morgan is the mother of three girls and lives in McCook.